The common problem, I suppose, is to have more to say than vocabulary and syntax can bear…
(Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren)
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I say motherhood makes the woman forget that she has a blog…
But, you see, I have a real excuse beyond laziness and tiredness. The main problem is that I don’t have the words to talk about what happened that morning. I mean, I know whatever I write won’t even touch the edges of the immensity of what we all went through. It’ll either be saccharine or bland or melodramatic or surface-y, or feel to you like I’m throwing up on your computer screen. Because I look at the baby I’m holding and I think about that night and I can’t talk or write, I just want to explode with all of it. You see? Melodramatic.
So finally after several false starts over the past week, this morning I just said, okay lady, whatever, just do it. Just write for 30 minutes, and whatever comes out of you stays, even though it won’t even touch the surface of what’s inside. The words aren’t important, you can refine later if you want something lasting, but for now you just need to get it down so you don’t forget. I don’t ever want to forget.
So, here goes. (Feel free to speed-read or skip this post altogether…Next time I promise I’ll write something un-baby related that doesn’t feel like I’m tearing out and examining my small intestines.)
When last we left Brittany, she was ow-ow-ow-ing, and our spring miracle was in progress. Although at the time we were almost as freaked out as we were awed. Actually, okay, let’s be honest here. We were at about a 70/30 freaked-out/awed ratio; scared for Brittany, for the baby, for this huge, mindbending thing that was about to happen in all of our lives. I don’t know how else to describe it except that it felt like a dream. Not in the dream-come-true sense, but like an actual hallucinatory dream, partly because it was was so weird and different from the way we usually spend Saturday nights (um, Netflix), and also because it was 2AM and let’s face it, my partying till dawn days were over in the last century. (Actually, I don’t think I ever partied till dawn. Although I did once stay up till dawn drinking beer with friends. Except that we were also studying organic chemistry equations, which probably makes it not count.)
Between contractions, we began to get more of Brittany’s story. Originally, the social worker had told us there were two potential fathers, one Brittany’s abusive husband (she’d used the word “controlling,” which seems a bit of an understatement for frikkin’ attempted strangulation), and one a man she’d only lain-with-in-the-biblical-sense once. But now Brittany told us this guy Marc, the lead singer in a band, had actually been a friend she’d spent quite a bit of time with, until she learned more about his rock-and-roll-multiple-fangirls/multiple-drugs lifestyle. She’d both been-with her husband and lain-with Marc around the time the baby was conceived, and since she wasn’t sure of the actual conception date, she couldn’t name the father.
So these were our choices, the man who choked Brit in the fourth month of her pregnancy, or the coke head. We have chosen instead to believe that Anna was an immaculate conception.
We’d been at the hospital for three hours, and the only thing progressing about Brittany’s labor was the pain and the ratio of four-letter words to regular words in conversation. Brittany had been so composed, but now she was writhing and screaming which, on the one hand, was a great distraction from the coming main attraction but, on the other hand, it was terrifying. I mean, I knew this was what happened when one gave birth, I’d seen movies…But it’s one thing to see airbrushed-soundtracked condensed-to-under-two-minutes-screen-time agony, and another thing altogether to be in the room with it, smell it. It was Just. So. Real. (As a side note, the conversation between her and her friend Alexis consisted of Brit yelling and sobbing and Alexis egging her on, swearing at her and making fun of her. Which made the whole thing seem even more bizarre. I found myself wanting to apologize.)
On top of the physical intensity, I couldn’t even imagine what Brit was going through emotionally. She knew what was about to happen and what it meant, what she was about to have and lose. The fact of it was this unspoken, jagged thing in the room. And it made what I was feeling the most complex, tangled intertwined mat of…oh just name an emotion, any emotion and I was feeling it: sadness, joy, fear, love, agony, excitement. Guilt. So much guilt. Because we were taking this woman’s baby away. She’d been carrying her for almost nine months, loved her with all her heart, and here we were, strangers, taking her baby away. I knew part of her must hate us for it, for being lucky enough to have the means to raise the baby when her life hadn’t provided her with the same opportunities. (At some point I’ll have to write about this, what it was like meeting her family, her other two kids, their tiny home, knowing Anna will have things these children probably never will. I’m still struggling with the guilt of it.)
At one point, it was around 4:40 AM, I was exhausted and drained and I felt like I needed to get away to just collect my thoughts. Brittany had finally agreed to get an epidural after hours of refusing, so when they asked us to leave the room I went into an empty hospital room and curled up on the bed. I could still hear Brittany screaming, but at least I was alone to try and get centered on what was happening and what was about to happen. Because, you know, this was going to be one of the most important moments of my life, and I wanted to understand it as it was going on, not just in retrospect. Does that sound selfish? It does, kind of. But it made sense to me at the time, felt almost imperative.
And because of it, I missed the moment when, a little before 5AM, Brittany said she felt like she needed to push.
Okay, that was 30 minutes of writing. And I didn’t even say what I wanted to say…How it felt seeing Anna for the first time, the days in Special Care, the love between Brittany and Anna and Brittany and us and Brittany and her family and her family and Anna. The life lessons I’ve learned–Some huge life lessons I think are applicable to anyone. I think everything we go through is supposed to teach us, and I’ve probably learned more in the past five weeks than I had in the fifteen years prior. I meant to get all that down here, but I didn’t even come close. At least, though, this is a start.
Next post, for a change, I’ll post the end to my retinopathy story. Compared to this, retinopathy was cake.